How These Flexible Rental Spaces Are Helping Entrepreneurs Work From Anywhere

How These Flexible Rental Spaces Are Helping Entrepreneurs Work From Anywhere
Image credit: Courtesy of Breather, inc.
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This story appears in the August 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Matthew Jonas, president of Homewood, Ill.-based digital marketing agency TopFire Media, makes his business-travel bookings in this order: airfare, hotel, office. “I’m old-school. I like to meet my clients face to face,” he says. “I find it more professional to do so in a physical office space than a coffee shop or the lounge of a hotel.” 

To that end, he uses ShareDesk, which books meeting spaces by the hour at 2,400 venues worldwide. Launched in 2012, ShareDesk is among a growing wave of companies that offer temporary office options for digital nomads—ranging from traditional offices to hotel rooms and apartments. Another, HotelsByDay, which launched earlier this year, lists hotel rooms available for six to eight daytime hours in 16 markets, including Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. 

This facet of the sharing economy—or, rather, the monetizing-of-underused-assets economy—can be cost-efficient for entrepreneurs. Anna Maria Sandegren, editor in chief of online fashion magazine Precious 7, has used HotelsByDay to refresh or hold meetings between shoots in New York. “It’s super convenient and cheap,” she says. “For a small startup to spend $1,000 for a hotel room doesn’t make sense, but it’s worth it for $110.”

HotelsByDay is being pitched to jet-lagged travelers and workers seeking privacy and repose. More than half of bookings take place within 24 hours of use and cost less than $100; real-time availability is posted on the company’s app. Hotels have been dealing with “the stigma of day use” for many years, says CEO Yannis Moati. “We think it’s the right time to bring it out of the shadows, and technology allows us to do that.”

There are many other options in the category. Breather, which started in Montreal before rolling out to New York, San Francisco and Boston, offers smartly designed workspaces with residential features like couches for about $25 per hour. LiquidSpace, with access to 5,500 workspaces, has an iPhone app that allows users to search by price, amenities, location and dates. Mobile bookings occur, on average, less than 20 hours prior, vs. 4.5 days out via computer.

The digs can boost appearances for startups. “It helps to make my business seem bigger because I can say now that I have multiple locations for meetings,” says Ryan Derks of Independence, Mo.-based investment firm Ravenna Capital. He occasionally rents from Regus, which has some 3,000 spaces worldwide. Then, he adds, there’s the networking. “I’ve met many other entrepreneurs who are using the same mobile offices, and together we can brainstorm and help each other.”

Private time begets productivity, says Vancouver, B.C.-based Adarsh Pallian, CEO of business-travel app Trippeo. “Starbucks had been my go-to meeting point,” he says, describing his switch to Breather. “It costs a minimal fee to rent the space, and you go in and relax and get your thoughts together. And at least you don’t smell like coffee when you leave.”

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